Doreen Reid Nakamarra / Pintupi/Ngaatjatjarra people / Australia c.1955–2009 / Untitled (Marrapinti) 2008 / Synthetic polymer paint on canvas / 213 x 275cm / Purchased 2009 with funds from the Bequest of Grace Davies and Nell Davies through the Queensland Art Gallery Foundation / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © Doreen Reid Nakamarra. Licensed by Aboriginal Artists Agency Ltd, 2008.

Doreen Reid Nakamarra
Untitled (Marrapinti) 2008

On Display: QAG, Gallery 13

Untitled (Marrapinti) is a painting associated with a rock-hole site in Western Australia and the Tingari ancestors who created country and law as they travelled the Western Desert. Tingari women camped at this site during their travels towards the east and it is here that they made nose bones, known as marrapinti. After the ceremonies at Marrapinti, the women continued towards Wilkinkarra (Lake Mackay).

The lines in Doreen Reid Nakamarra’s work depict the creek at the site and the surrounding sandhills. Dotted lines give the impression of waves of sand blowing across the landscape and of the optical illusions that shimmer in the desert heat haze. Her innovative optical style, created by countless dots laid down in zigzagged rows, received international appreciation and introduced new audiences to Western Desert art.

Born near the Warburton Ranges in Western Australia in the mid 1950s, Doreen Reid Nakamarra was to become the best known female artist of her generation to emerge from Papunya.

As a child, she walked with her family to the Lutheran settlement of Haasts Bluff, west of Alice Springs, and later attended school at the nearby community of Papunya. In the early 1980s, she travelled to Kintore where she met her husband, George ‘Tjampu’ Tjapaltjarri, who became a painter with the Papunya Tula Artists.

Through Papunya Tula Artists, Nakamarra painted with a small group of women from 1996 to 2000. Her confidence and desire grew and over the next three years she painted more than 60 works.

Nakamarra’s early works were typical representations of women’s food-gathering stories but her compositional range changed throughout her career. Influenced by her husband, who also painted in a dichromatic (two-coloured) minimalist manner with mesmerising optical effects, by 2003 she had developed a style that satisfied both her cultural interpretation of ancestral stories and contemporary minimalism. This development was pivotal in her gaining more recognition for her work.

Discussion Questions

1. Focus on the painting for a sustained length of time. How does the visual intensity of this work influence you as a viewer?

2. Discuss how Nakamarra uses visual elements such as line, shape, tone, colour and composition to represent her country. How does she create the moving optical effect?

3. Discuss whether this painting is abstract or representational.

Classroom Activities

1. Examine photographs of sand dunes and beaches, paying attention to the way that the sun creates patterns and shadows. Create these sand patterns in a painting or drawing.

2. Draw repeated lines to create a three-dimensional impression on a two-dimensional surface.

3. Draw a section of your school grounds that has an interesting elevation by drawing the rise and fall of this landscape using a pattern on a dark ground.